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No. 45 – Breaking the Fourth Wall

by | Feb 21, 2021 | Letters

There is a concept in the performing arts called the “fourth wall.” The fourth wall is an invisible, imagined separation between a performance and the audience. All of the audience’s faculties (vision, sound, emotions) penetrate this barrier, but the performers act as though they do not. Violations of this barrier- when some aspect of the show acknowledges it’s a performance, addresses the audience, or solicits their assistance- are known as “breaking the fourth wall.” Examples include when Family Guy’s Peter Griffin talks about their Fox TV programming, or when police interrupt a Monty Python filming session to arrest two actors. It is jarring to the audience and audience reactions range from surprise to hilarity to disappointment. 

This week broke a “fourth wall.” 

Modernity is quite a show. We have incredible feats performed before us- clean water, cheap electricity, heat in the winter, AC in the summer, cell service, reliable high-speed internet, etc. These we take in good faith, ignore the hidden complexities, and simply accept what they add to our lives. We’re an audience gleefully captivated by the show of modernity. 

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